Javon Hargrave Continues Strong Play In Heyward’s Absence

In the two games since the Pittsburgh Steelers placed defensive captain Cameron Heyward on the injured reserve list, the defense has improved both in terms of the running game and in getting the quarterback on the ground. while the Colts last night racked up some garbage rushing yards on the ground on the final drive, Frank Gore was held to just 28 yards on 15 carries.

And the Steelers recorded three sacks a game after getting eight, both of them on the road. Rookie defensive tackle Javon Hargrave has played a key role in that improvement, as he has a sack on back-to-back games now, the first two sacks of his professional career.

The Steelers brought Colts backup quarterback Scott Tolzien down three times, including on the first play of the game on a cornerback blitz by William Gay. James Harrison also contributed his second sacks in as many games, and his fourth of the season to take the team lead.

But Hargave’s sack was the most impressive of the trio, as it demonstrated his phenomenal athleticism and agility for a man of his size. And it really spoke to exactly the sort of athletic ability that the Steelers saw in him leading up to the draft that had them take a chance on a small-school player in the third round.

Coming midway through the third quarter, Hargrave started out his rush by swimming over the inside shoulder of the left guard before the center came over to pick him up. As Tolzien flushed out of the pocket to his left, the rookie muscled his way through the center and made an athletic diving one-arm tackle, tripping up the quarterback by his trailing leg.

The play resulted in a loss of seven yards and set up a third and 15, but, unfortunately, the defense allowed a conversion on the following play. In fact, the Colts got all the way down to the one-yard line by the end of that drive, but ultimately still failed to score.

Hargrave also posted a career-high five tackles over the course of the game, including four of the solo variety, which gives him 18 tackles on the season. It was his fourth game of the year with multiple tackles, which is not nothing considering how limited his playing time at times has been.

According to Nathan Jahnke for Pro Football Focus, Hargrave had “his best pass rushing game”, with the site crediting him with a sack, a hit, and three additional hurries, for five total pressures on the quarterback over the course of the game. That is exactly the sort of production the Steelers need to get from players like him in Heyward’s absence.

After the game, head coach Mike Tomlin did say that Hargrave finished the game with a hand injury. The team will have extra rest before the next game, however, so hopefully there is nothing to be concerned about.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • steelburg

    A little while back I went and looked up Big Snacks and compared him to Hargrave. I compared them on more of the height, weight, strength etc, more on some of the stuff the combine looks at. I think the team is hoping this guy can be an athletic Big Snacks who can provide sacks. He doesn’t hold his groud at the point of attack just yet like Big Snacks IMO, (which is is why I think teams sometimes target him in the running game) but a little added weight and NFL like strength training should help him with that over the next few years.

  • Steeler83

    I’m still a little skeptical about his skills because of the level of competion of our last 2 opponents but his arrow is pointed up and that’s pretty cool !

  • Carl Eagan

    Since Hargrave played DE most of the past 2 games not sure why he is being compared to Hampton? he doesn’t have the strength or technique yet to play the 0 or even 1 technique. One thing for sure against bad offensive lines he can be almost dominate.

  • Dorian James

    This is off topic, but PFF is taking over, soon they will be selecting pro bowlers and all Pros

  • T3xassteelers

    NFL teams are still NFL teams with NFL caliber players. But I Definitely agree!!

  • steelburg

    Casey Hampton coming out of Texas 6’1, 314lbs, 34 reps on the bench. Javon Hargrave coming out South Carolina State 6’1 309 29 reps on the bench. I compared the two players in that regard not ability. I actually said pretty much what you said about him not being as stout as Hampton at the point of attack and not as strong in the run game. But both guys were drafted to play NT. I also think that over time they hope Hargrave can become what Hampton was in the run game but I also think they saw added value in him with how he athletic he is and how he can get to the QB.

  • Petherson Silveira

    Another very good game from him. Just praying to the hand injury be a minor one.

  • woodsworld58

    Hampton was very strong, and at some point in his career, had a 600 lb bench press. Hargrave may never reach such feats of strength, but his athletic advantage could make him just as effective.

  • He had a great one-handed tackle on the Colt’s QB. Grabbing him by the foot. Great play. Hargrave is becoming a force to be reckoned with.

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    He’s a handful for one guy but double teams tend to make him disappear so the answer seems to be don’t ask him to take on doubles.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    JJ has played against some crappy competition over 4 years and what has he done? Gravedigger is getting pressure pretty consistently. I think he is really going to be something.

  • pkeats86

    He was double teamed on his one handed sack and still made the play. He is growing. This rookie class could be great.

  • Bradys_Dad

    J Wobble’s arrow is pointing way up ! Must be oddly frustrating when J gets a breather and Big Dan steps in – talk about your opposite ends of the spectrum. Tuitt has been a beast these last 2 games. Can the guys keep it up against better competition down the stretch? Sure gonna be interesting to watch and assess. Happy belated Thanksgiving to all.

  • I don’t think they drafted him only to play NT but also to rotate into the nickel package as a pass rusher where he has more value because of his explosive first step.

  • Douglas Andrews

    That’s all I’m hoping for. Hard to ask the young fella to come in and become the next big snack. I think we and myself included got so used to Hamp in the middle that we unfairly measure all the NT’s with him. Casey was on another level period. Back to Hargraves i’m with you a little added strength with all the game experience he’s getting will go along way to his development. Really nice to see him making plays this late in the season. Shows you he’s working hard and improving steadily. I’m ready to see more of what he did at SC State.

  • steelburg

    I agree and said as much in the last sentence.

  • I just wouldn’t compare him to Hampton because we play so little 3-4 these days. Imo, they are/were totally different players.

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    His arrow is clearly heading up but I have no idea how they envision him in the future. If you bulk him up to 330+, I believe he would lose a lot of the quickness that’s been his trademark. But,if he’s not 330+ then he’s not an ideal 3-4 NT. I just don’t know what their future expectations are from him.

  • Juan Nogueira

    I didn’t see the sack you’re talking about Alex… Only sacks I refer are the Will Gay strip sack, Deebo sack, and Sean Davis goal line hit.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Yeah I don’t think they’ll be looking to take any of his athleticism away. They’re going to make him a penetrator, the way McLendon was, but only even more successful.

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    I liked the things he did last night, particularly with the way he lined up slanting the nose to guard,or guard to tackle gap the way Mean Joe used to. That was the kind of impact I think we’d all hoped for but were unsure about due to his level of competition. He looks like he’s getting a little stronger in the upper body now compared to a few months ago.

  • pkeats86

    I think the intentions are clear. He is going to stay at this weight and stay the player he is. Whether we like to admit it or not, our “base” is now a nickel, like most of the league. His pass rushing prowess allows that base to have different looks. Javon allows us to have a pass rusher in while still having a run stuffing base. For instance, Cam Javon Tuitt and Dupree… That is a big lineup right there but still hase plenty of speed and pass rushing ability to get to the QB. The days of the 330 LB NT are going away. Even the Browns asked Danny to lose some lbs and he is considered an athletic NT already.